John Wooden was a great coach and a beloved man who was known for his short but inspirational messages to his players which were often driven by how to be a success in life as well as basketball.
He once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
In a world full of social media, surveillance cameras, and live feeds, you would hope that true character would be captured more often but it is truly outweighed by filling the headlines full of the lesser appealing but more news worthy displays of bad behavior. So, when I witness true character, I feel compelled to acknowledge it. In this case, I didn't have to go far.
My sons were riding bikes on our street and, when I walked by the front window, I saw my middle child get off his bike by our neighbor's house. This neighbor lives up north and comes every couple of months for a change of scenery. He had done some yard work, left his garbage cans by the sidewalk, and returned to Maryland. It was our garbage pick up day and they had stashed his stack of cans in his driveway.
My son hopped off his bike and, one by one, neatly stacked his cans by the side of his house where he usually kept them. Then, hopped back on his bike and rode away. I smirked and teared up with incredibly proud emotions. Not that I hadn't seen his true character before but because it is such a sweet thing to witness in a world where you don't see it often enough.
When they returned to the house, he never mentioned his random act of kindness I had witnessed. So, I waited a little while and mentioned it to him. "I saw you grab Bill's garbage cans and put them away for him. That was very nice of you." He blushed and just sweetly responded, "Yeah." No explanation necessary and no need for praise as far as he was concerned. It is such a simple impulse for my son to help and do good because it feels right, not because it will get him noticed. You got it right, kid! That is true character!
Bill won't ever know he put his cans away for him unless he is told. He will just figure that his yard service did it instead of the incredible 10 year old across the street. He's okay with that and that true character of his prefers it that way. So, I respect (and LOVE) that about you and I won't defeat your purpose either by telling Bill.
What does your true character say about you? Do you find it just as or even more rewarding to be kind without seeking credit for your actions?